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Mavs Set Tone in Game 1 Victory

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the rival San Antonio Spurs in a convincing game 1 win that wasn't nearly as close as the final score of 100-94 might have lead you to believe. Despite several runs from the Spurs to keep the game somewhat close, this game had the feel of a rather one-sided affair. There are several things for an enthusiastic fan to take from the Mav's opening game of the playoffs to reinforce dreams of the Mavericks bringing home a NBA championship come June.

The first has to be the play of the Mav's superstar, Dirk Nowitzki. Much is expected for Dirk if the Mavericks are going to make a run at the title. Mostly he is just expected to be himself. To bring the same scoring, rebounding and leadership each night that he has provided throughout the regular season and indeed much of his illustrious career. However, in the past there have been times in the playoffs where Dirk has struggled. Earlier in his career, the way the game slows to a halfcourt affair and the extra time for foes to scheme against him defensively have frustrated Dirk. The Spurs coach Greg Popovich is widely respected as one of the greatest defensive minds in the game today. There was a lot of anticipation regarding what he would do to try and negate Dirk's contributi0n. Well, whatever it was suffices to say it didn't work. Dirk was able to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Although he scored 36, it seemed as if he could have gone for 5o if so inclined. At one point in the fourth quarter on consecutive possessions, the Spurs actually triple teamed him as an apparent last ditch effort to contain him. If he can continue to play at that level, it will go along way in the Mavs achieving their ultimate goal.

Another huge positive was the play of Caron Butler. It wasn't so much the numbers, although 22 and 6 ain't bad, but the toughness and leadership which he brought that were significant. He looks like a man on a mission out there, like he will not be denied. That kind of swagger is exactly what this team needs. It's what has been lacking from the Dallas Maverick teams of the past. That eye of the tiger that Butler brings to the court is the kind of thing that galvanizes the rest of his team. His teammates see the look and passion that he plays with and will do anything they can to avoid letting a guy like that down. It's that extra effort that this inspires that was also on display in game 1. Hopefully we will see this continue throughout the series and throughout the postseason. The entire team seemed to have a little extra bounce in their step. Some of that is expected, I mean these are the playoffs. But the way the bench was into the game and the emotions the players exhibited throughout the night is a little more than just that. The crowd noticed too, as they too appeared to step their game up and created a formidable home court advantage. That's hopefully a sign of things to come as the Mavericks progress through this postseason as well.

Another guy that seems he won't be denied was point guard Jason Kidd. He was unstoppable at times offensively in the second half and finished just two rebounds shy of a triple double. At this point in his career, Kidd has worked himself into becoming quite the shooter. This ability to stretch the San Antonio defense was huge in game 1. As long as he continues to distribute the ball the way he does and lead this team offensively, any scoring is from him is icing on the cake. His presence on the defensive end alone makes him a valuable contributor, but you just worry about the number of minutes wearing on his 37 year old body. The Mavericks would love to be able to get away with not playing him 40 minutes or more like they did in the opening game as much as possible. That would go a long way in making sure he stays healthy and fresh for a deep playoff run.

Probably the best thing the Mavericks did in game 1 to cruise to a victory was play tough, hard-nosed defensive. They played terrific, inspired team defensive against the Spurs all night long. With the exception of Ginobili, the Mavs frustrated the Spurs players most of the night. They forced them into difficult shots and rebounded the ball with authority, often limiting San Antonio to just the one, contested shot. However, it would be nice if someone could slow down the Spurs star forward at least a little bit. The Spurs at this point are led offensively by Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker. The Mavericks did a pretty solid job overall on Parker as they made him work for everything he got. Unfortunately there's just now a whole lot you can do about that floating teardrop in the lane that Parker has become so proficient at. You just have to live with some things when you're dealing with players at the NBA level. The 18 points Parker scored is not the kind of performance that is going to really hurt the Mavs moving forward. Luckily for Dallas, Tim Duncan is simply not the kind of player at this stage of his career that can carry a team offensively. Ginobili showed in game 1 that he still very much is. I must admit, I wouldn't mind seeing Carlisle give the rookie Rudy B a shot on Ginobili. He might be athletic enough to bother him just enough, not to mention some rest it could provide for Kidd. They need to make sure they contain Manu as much as they can. He's the kind of player who if you're not careful, can go off on any given night and lead his team to a win. The Mavericks would be well served to not mess around in this series. They showed us in game 1 what we were all thinking and hoping, that they are the superior team. Now it's time to take care of business and finish the Spurs off in 4 games. A series sweep will provide the kind of rest that this veteran team might need to make an extended run in the playoffs. Plus, the tone they set in game 1 makes you think any future loss to the Spurs would simply be a result of the Mavericks not playing up to the level we now know they are capable of.


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